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Australia and the Netherlands have assumed control at the Sahara Hockey Champions Trophy in Chennai after recording a pair of victories on day three.
With two rounds to go until the playoff matches on Sunday, the top two have opened a significant lead in the race for a spot in the decider.
With their fate squarely on their own sticks, with Australia particular on the brink of a finals berth, their heavyweight clash tomorrow night sets up a huge reward for the victor.
There were limited opportunities in the Netherlands-Spain match, but the superior finishing touch of the Dutch strike line proved difference.
The Netherlands built a comfortable 3-0 lead over Spain with just 14 minutes left on the clock, but, as they did against Germany two nights ago, the Dutch conceded a pair of quick goals to let their opponents back into the match.
Spain had a chance to draw level with a last minute penalty corner, but they couldn’t pierce the wall of Netherlands defenders.
The Netherlands defensive lapses late in the matches will need to be arrested before the match against Australia– a clash likely to confirm at least one team’s participation in Sunday’s decider.
Australia raced to a four-goal lead against India and it looked as though Champions Trophy records might fall as the Olympic champions’ hunger for goals went unchecked by the Indian defence for the opening 20 minutes.
Nathan Eglington bagged a double for Australia, with his first after 14 seconds one the fastest goals ever scored in Champions Trophy history. He couldn’t quite break the record however, with the fastest scored by Pakistani Hanif Khan just 10 seconds into his team’s clash with the Netherlands in Karachi in 1984.
However Australia’s fluency faltered as India found their feet, but the huge lead earned by the Kookaburras was never going to be seriously threatened despite an Indian goal late in the first half which gave them confidence to continue attacking in the second 35 minutes.
The battle of the bottom two teams produced an entertaining match, with Pakistan and Germany having to settle for a high scoring draw.
Three penalty strokes were awarded and Germany came back from a two-goal deficit to take the lead into the second half, but Pakistan scored with three minutes to go to snatch their first point of the tournament.
Australia and the Netherlands’s twin victories have them well clear at the top of the table. Australia leads the table on nine points, with the Netherlands two points further back. Third-placed Spain and India sit on three points, while Germany and Pakistan are out of title contention.
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